R.I.P.D. feels tacky and toneless

R.I.P.D. is not, contrary to popular internet opinion, just a rehash of the much more popular MIB franchise (even if the premise of a hip 20-something teaming up with a crotchety white guy in a super-secret police force to battle creatures hidden from humanity seems awfully familiar).

R.I.P.D.What R.I.P.D. is, is an adaptation of a comic book from 1999, that ran as a mini series for about four issues that did it’s damnedest to rehash the much more popular MIB franchise. See? Completely different.

So if this film adaptation sounds like the exact kind of thing that would end up being a soulless, dull, unfunny, cash grab (only somehow it’s missing that the entire point of a cash grab is to have more than a handful of people be aware of the source material to begin with), you’d be right in your assumptions.

Banking on the strength of Jeff Bridges’ acting and Ryan Reynolds’ dazzling smile, R.I.P.D. attempts to take a bite of the big ole’ summer blockbuster bagel and comes up painfully short.

When officer/dirty cop Nick (Reynolds) is murdered by his co-conspirator/partner (Kevin Bacon at his most Kevin Bacon-est) using a routine police raid as the perfect cover, he finds himself transported to limbo, where he’s promised his judgment will be staved off if he agrees to serve time as a cop for the Rest In Peace Department. After being assigned to his partner, Roy (Bridges), a grizzled, living dead legend from the Old West, he’s sent back to Earth to round up escaped souls, bring his ex-partner to justice, and unravel a century’s old mystery that threatens to bring down heaven and earth.

All the potential R.I.P.D. has to be an interesting story is just wasted thanks to some extraordinarily rushed pacing. After being scarcely introduced into this new world of supernatural cops, we’re yanked immediately back to Earth with nary a mention of some glaring questions that the whole premise of the Rest In Peace Department raises.

Rather than explore any of this ground for a plot, the movie devolves into just being Reynolds and Bridges telling the same unfunny jokes over and over again, while battling crappy CGI monsters. No time is spent on any world building, making the rules of the whole supernatural police department thing reek of “make it up as we go along.” I’m not even exaggerating when I say no proper plot line emerges until almost 45 minutes in.

This could be forgiven if it wasn’t for the acting that fails to convey any kind of consistent tone for longer than a minute. Jeff Bridges is an annoying, obnoxious, walking cowboy stereotype who does Not. Shut. Up. We’re told he’s a pro, and some sort of an expert on all things undead. Ideally he should be the character the audience gravitates towards to learn more about the world, but he spends all of that Jeff Bridges goodwill on being painfully unfunny (and subtly plugging his solo album). Not that you can blame his character for not bothering to explain half of what’s’ going on when Ryan Reynolds barely seems awake enough to convey any sort of realistic human emotion. He goes through the motions of grief, shock, and disbelief to snappy one-liners in the space of a single scene, and never touches on them again.

With some tighter writing, better characterization, and some tone consistency, there might be something here to warrant an enjoyable summer blockbuster. There are some unique ideas sprinkled here and there that could work if more time was spent properly developing them. But as a whole, R.I.P.D. feels more like a themed roller coaster ride then a movie, with about as much substance.